Happy Pride Month from AwardsCircuit.com! If you’re looking for some TV shows that celebrate queer pride, here’s a list of the top 10 notable LGBTQ+ characters on TV right now. While you’re here, check out our Emmy Predictions for 2017. Some of the actors on this list won Primetime Emmys for their roles, and could snag more in September.
(These are in no particular order)
Sophia Burset, ‘Orange is the New Black’
Sophia Burset is a fellow inmate of main character Piper Herman in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” Sophia, a vibrant, intelligent black woman, was designated as male at birth and paid for her transition with stolen credit cards. Currently paying her dues in Litchfield, she works as the prison hairstylist until she is thrown into the SHU. Supposedly her confinement is “protection” for Sophia, who deals with transphobic abuse at Litchfield. This “protection” nearly kills her. Her character’s story highlights the abuses that trans people still deal with in 2017.
Laverne Cox, who plays Burset, is an actor and outspoken trans activist. Her presence on OitNB has sparked many viewers to find acceptance for trans folks in their own lives. She was nominated for an Emmy for her role as Sophia in 2014.
Annalise Keating, ‘How To Get Away With Murder’
Annalise Keating, a badass law professor with a brain two steps ahead, is a force to be reckoned with on ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder.” In the 2nd season of HTGAWM, Annalise is revealed to be bisexual when an old flame comes back into town. Their romance is remarkably void of murder and betrayal…so far. Annalise’s sexuality is treated as a facet of her personality, not its entirety, and not the death hazard being queer on TV can be.
Oscar-winner Viola Davis plays Annalise Keating and is the first black female actor to win the Primetime Emmy Award in 2015 for her role. She was nominated again in 2016, and is likely to be nominated again for her role this year.
Lito Rodriguez, ‘Sense8’
In a world that’s grown increasingly hostile to diversity, Netflix’s “Sense8” is a breath of fresh air. Lito Rodriguez is one of—you guessed it, 8—sensates who is hunted by sci-fi corporate villian BPO on “Sense8.” Lito is a Mexican action star who is outed as being gay and blackballed in his country’s film industry. While his boyfriend Fernando and beard/platonic girlfriend Daniela revamp his career, Lito’s passion both inspires and irritates his fellow sensates. His character adds an entertaining, verbose light to the sci-fi show’s dark 2nd season.
Miguel Ángel Silvestre plays Lito Rodriguez. He is a Spanish actor also known for his role on “Velvet.”
Amanita Caplan, ‘Sense8’
Freema Agyeman of “Doctor Who” fame plays Amanita Caplan on “Sense8.” She’s your bisexual knight in shining armor with a kickass motorcycle, whisking Nomi out of harm’s way when people try to lobotomize, kidnap, and belittle her. Amanita’s fierce protection of her sensate girlfriend, Nomi, is tantamount to the sci-fi drama’s main storyline. Without Amanita’s love and support, Nomi would not be emotionally or physically able to protect and defend her sensate cluster. While Amanita isn’t technically a main character on “Sense8,” the audience tends to forget she’s not a sensate herself. Where Nomi goes, Amanita goes, no matter if it’s a trip to England or an uncomfortable family wedding.
Uniquely, Amanita’s family unit is polyamorous, as Amanita was raised by 3 fathers and 1 mother. Perhaps this is where Amanita learned how to love so fiercely. Amanita’s parents accept Nomi into their family and reinforce the show’s theme that love can conquer all. Unlike most television shows, there are plenty of LGBTQ+ characters to cheer on without fear of the Bury Your Gays stereotype.
Cosima Niehaus, ‘Orphan Black’
As American news grows crazier every day, sci-fi shows like “Orphan Black” seem chillingly possible. “Orphan Black” follows Sarah Manning, a con artist who discovers she was part of a cloning movement called Neolution. Sarah is one of several sister clones hunted at every turn by police, religious fanatics, and Dyad Institute.
One of the clones, Cosima Niehaus, is a supersmart evolutionary biologist suffering from a cloning disease. She also happens to be queer, and falls for fellow scientist Delphine. Refreshingly, after Cosima and Delphine begin dating, they continue to work together as equals. Their relationship has its ups and downs, but reflects a love story centered on romance, not girl-on-girl fanservice. Coupled with Cosima’s passionate race to find the cure for her disease in the hopes of sparing her sisters, the show leaves its audience on the edge of their seats. “Orphan Black” is a show you don’t want to miss.
Tatiana Maslany, who plays Cosima, won a Primetime Emmy Award for her role in 2016.
Robert Hanson and Sol Bernstein, ‘Grace and Frankie’
Robert and Sol are 2 older gay men who come out in order to spend their golden years together. “Grace and Frankie” depicts the couple in the typical domestic pitfalls that come with getting older and coming out. Neither man regrets coming out, and their love fills the vacuum that television so often leaves for older LGBTQ+ people.
In addition Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston give a convincing performance as a couple in whirlwind love. It’s notable that two actors known for parts as soldiers, presidents and police detectives—jobs usually portrayed by a “man’s man”—chose to play gay men on the hit TV comedy.
Alex Danvers, ‘Supergirl’
Chyler Leigh plays Supergirl’s hard-core sister, Alex Danvers, on DC Comics’ “Supergirl.” When she’s not giving her superhero sister a hand to hand combat lesson, she’s holding hands with girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. Alex’s coming out is a seminal chapter for comics turned TV, where LGBTQ+ characters are rarely featured.
Alex struggles with her sexual identity in earlier seasons of “Supergirl,” and her feelings for Maggie bring her inner turmoil to a head. Fans have praised “Supergirl” for the story arc, and LGBTQ+ visibility on a show aimed towards a younger audience has already saved lives. Who says only superheroes get to save the day?
Taylor Amber Mason, ‘Billions’
They may be fairly new to the party, but they’ve already left their mark in Hollywood. Asia Kate Dillon portrays analyst Taylor Mason on corporate greed drama “Billions.” Their quick-wit with numbers quickly draws the attention of main character Axe. In addition, the genius makes waves at Axe Capital by simply being themselves. Taylor identifies as non-binary, someone who doesn’t fit into society’s binary of male or female. Taylor states their preferred pronouns–they, them, theirs– and goes about their life on “Billions,” blowing their colleagues out of the water at every turn.
Asia Kate Dillon, who is also non-binary, plays Taylor. They are the first non-binary character on American primetime television. Though they just started their tenure on “Billions,” Dillon has already been promoted to series regular for the next season as of April.
Denise, ‘Master of None’
It will be shocking if Lena Waithe or Angela Bassett aren’t nominated for an Emmy for the recent “Master of None” episode “Thanksgiving.” Waithe, who plays Denise, co-wrote the episode’s script with showrunner Aziz Ansari to tell her coming out story. The episode follows Denise, best friend of main character Dev, as she discovers her sexual orientation via a montage of past Thanksgivings. Her mother Catherine, played by Bassett, struggles to deal as Denise comes out and brings girlfriends home for the holiday.
The show’s decision to focus solely on Denise, a supporting character, reflects Ansari’s prerogative to tell stories that haven’t been seen on the small screen. Furthermore, Ansari and Waithe give a nuanced look at what growing up as a black lesbian woman. In a clear departure from season 2’s story arc, Denise became a visible force for queer TV.
Any other LGBTQ+ characters who should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!